Each year, the American Legion hosts an essay contest for fifth grade students that begins with a simple question: What does the flag mean to you? Upon reflection, the students composed a brief essay in response to the question and submitted it to the local Post for judging in December.
In La Porte City, American Legion Post #207 provided a number of resources for the students at La Porte City Elementary School. Among them were a video and a comic book that explained the history, significance and proper treatment of the flag. Students were also treated to a formal flag-folding ceremony, conducted by local Legion members, to better understand the symbolism and reverance that is afforded the flag during this solemn activity.

Rules for the essay contest were clearly spelled out:
Must be over your personal opinion of “What does the flag mean to you?”
Must include information to support your opinion from the United States Flag Code.
Must be double spaced and typed.
Your essay cannot exceed one page and cannot be more than 300 words.
Must be organized in paragraph format with no spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes.

At an assembly held last month, members of the Legion met with the fifth graders to announce the top three placewinners in the local essay contest. Addressing the students, Post Commander Rick Calhoon explained that the essay judging, which is done without revealing the identity of the authors, was especially difficult this year due to the excellent compositions submitted by so many students. In the end, the judges selected Emily Anton’s essay as the first place entry, which will advance to compete at the regional contest. Placing second and third were Lauren Frush and Benjamin Rosauer, respectively.

What does the flag mean to me?    By Emily Anton, 1st Place

What does the flag mean to me? The flag means more than just stars and stripes on fabric. It means a lot more to me than that. The flag means that it is my country, and that we, the United States of America fought for that flag. My grandpa and uncle have a special place in my heart for the flag because they were in the army. I know it means a lot to them, so I support that. I have always had a special place in my heart for the military and the flag they fought for. That flag to me stands for peace, freedom, and love for the United States of America.
I can’t imagine not living in the three above ways. It’s more than a flag, it is the United States of America’s flag! I do respect those who are fighting for that flag right now and I always will. I absolutely am so blessed to have the flag and the tough military that we have! I could not be more blessed than I am. The people that have served our country are the most strong, brave, loving, and caring people that I know. It makes me upset when people don’t stop to take their hat off, or put their hand over their heart. I think it is very important that you salute the flag. I can’t imagine not living in peace. Most countries don’t get to sleep in peace without worrying about a bomb dropping on their family. I am so thankful that I don’t have to worry about that. I pray that our country will always, always stay that way. I love the American flag so much, and even when I grow old, I will love it just the same. I am one happy American.

What does the flag mean to me?   By Lauren Frush, 2nd Place

To me, the flag has a very big impact on my life. It is an important symbol of our nation. The military fought very hard to keep that flag safe so that we could have a free country, like we do today. I think it is very important that everybody treats the flag with respect. Burning the flag is a symbol of honor compared to just throwing it away. I salute the flag! Without any of the army members, we could be taking orders by a king! At school, we try our best to show honor to the flag by carefully raising and lowering the flag everyday. I have already had that opportunity and I couldn’t have been prouder to have that chance! Every time we go camping, we put a flag along the side of our camper. We think it shows respect to all of the military men and women, especially since we have had some family in the military, and still do today. I am truly honored to be an American, I really am! Another very special characteristic of the flag is all of the folds. When I was folding the flag here at school, it was very special to me. The first and third folds are my favorite. The first fold is a symbol of our life. I am very thankful I am living here today which is why I love the first fold so much. The third fold honors the veterans who have fought to keep our country here. Everyday at school last year, we said the Pledge of Allegiance while holding our hands over our heart and facing the flag. I believe that the flag means a lot to our country and it deserves to fly high! Thank you veterans!

What does the flag mean to me?   By Benjamin Rosauer, 3rd Place

To me, I think what the U.S flag means is so much. I love the fact about how the flag is not just red, white, and blue. It’s white, the symbol of purity, blue, the symbol of perseverance, and justice, and red, the symbol of bravery. My personal favorite is red because it’s to honor the men and women who have or have not fallen, and I think we should respect them because they gave their lives for not just us but for everyone living in the United States of America. I also like the fact saying in the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, indivisible.” Just those words says we are one, and not divided. Those words to me are so powerful because we may be 50 states but we are one together. So when I see someone disrespecting our flag, it doesn’t just hurt me, but it makes me question, why? Why would you disrespect the flag that gave you freedom, justice, and rights for religious beliefs? I think the U.S. flag is an amazing piece of history and gives us the chance to make choices, believe, and love. I know everyday that I want to make the world a better place for the men and women who have gave their lives for the United States of America, and to never give up because I know that the U.S. flag will always be there for me.